We hear a lot about the migration of monarch butterflies. But did you know that most butterflies and moths 🦋 stick around all winter? They overwinter in our yards as an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or adult. Leaves and plant litter are critical habitats for these overwintering pollinators.
A mini-ecosystem starts to grow when we minimize yard work: butterflies and moths lay eggs on the undersides of fallen leaves and seek shelter under leaf cover as the days get colder; solitary bees 🐝 build nests in dead plant stems and old woody material for nesting sites; bumblebee queens 🐝👑 hibernate in shallow holes just a few inches below the soil until warmer spring weather arrives. And there are so many other animals that live in leaves: spiders 🕷️, snails 🐌, worms 🐛, beetles 🐞, millipedes, mites, and more—that support the chipmunks🐿️, turtles 🐢, birds , and amphibians 🐸 that rely on these insects for food.
So, leave the leaves! Pile leaves over garden beds, around trees and shrubs, or in the corner of the yard. And skip the shredding! Shredded leaves will not provide the same cover as leaving them whole, and you may be destroying eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalis along with the leaves.
Sources: XERCES Society and the Tufts Pollinator Initiative